THEY say when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Well, reigning national champions Joe Public did just that at the João Havelange Centre of Excellence yesterday evening, bouncing back into contention in the Craven A Professional Football League (PFL) in the process.
Beaten twice in a row going into the game against Point Fortin Civic Centre, the Public once again bared their teeth as they humiliated the southerners 8-1-the largest margin of victory to date in the inaugural league-in front of an appreciative Sunday evening crowd.
The Public's success was set up by Vincentian import Kendal Velox who-pushed into the forward line by coach Jamal Shabazz with national striker Irasto Knights on trial in the United States with A-League outfit Raleigh Express-cashed in by notching the league's third hattrick to date all in the second half.
The morale boosting win helped the Public halt a rut which had been threatening to tear their title chasing campaign apart. They now hope to build on this as they chase current leaders W Connection (18 pts) and second-placed Defence Force (12 pts) in the race for the Craven A challenge trophy and $500,000 first prize.
A game which had been an even and keenly contested affair was suddenly transformed with an unfortunate injury to Civic Centre goalie Fitzgerald Dick.
With the scores knotted up at 1-1 after Wesley John (25th minute) had neutralised Civic Centre striker Russell Pope's 20th minute strike, Dick was forced to leave the field with an injury he suffered in a collision with a Public player just on the half hour mark.
His replacement, Selwyn George, proved out of depth at best.
It took the home team just three minutes to capitalise on George's obvious deficiencies, Public midfielder Stokely Mason giving them the go-ahead goal in the 39th minute.
After a searching run up the right flank and towards the top of the Civic penalty area, Mason tried an ambitious right-footer towards goal. The shot had no real venom in it but George failed to cover his far post and was nowhere close to the ball as it shook his net.
So despite an impressive start in which they had managed to silence the Lion's lair, the visitors had lost the advantage at halftime.
And things took a turn for the worse on the resumption as Velox, although he did not have to work too hard for them, struck three times in quick succession to put the game away.
His first and best effort came in the 50th minute when he met a headed pass from skipper Arnold Dwarika with a left-footed half volley from seven metres out which gave George no chance.
The other two goals came via blunders from George. His first assist came in 51st minute when he parried a left-side cross from Mason into the path of Velox who slotted home. The second came two minutes after that when he left his line as Velox delivered an swerving left-footed corner from the right and succeeded only in bundling the ball into his own citadel to make the score 5-1.
After that a demoralised Civic defence, marshalled by skipper Russell Monroe, offered little resistance to the Eastern Lions.
So it was no surprise when substitute Cyd Gray and Dwarika helped themselves to goals in the 67th and 77th minutes before Civic defender ended the humiliation with an agonising own goal five minutes from the end.
In the second game of the double header, a second half double from Guyanese striker Collie Hercules-after a scoreless first half- steered Khelwalaas to a 3-1 win over Police.
Reginald Gibson netted for the lawmen while one of his teammates gave Khelwalaas an own goal.
Joe Public 8 (Kendal Velox 3 (hattrick 50th, 51st, 53rd), Wesley John, Stokely Mason, Cyd Gray, Arnold Dwarika, OG) v Point Fortin CC 1 (Russell Pope)
Doc's Khelwalaas 3 (Collie Hercules 2, OG) v Police 1 (Reginald Gibson)
W Connection 2 (Earl Jean, Wesley Webb pen) v Defence Force 1 (Carlos Edwards)